Today is Transfer Deadline Day. For non-football fans, that phrase will either illicit groans or simple ignorance. However, for football fans, that phrase conjures up images of Harry Redknapp being interviewed leaning out of a car window, Peter Odemwingie turning up to random football stadiums without consent and Liverpool offloading Fernando Torres for £50m and instantly replacing him with Andy Carroll!
As the name suggests, Transfer Deadline Day is the final day on which Football League clubs can buy and sell players (albeit Spain’s transfer window remains open until Friday night – which will be nervewracking for Coutinho fans!) Unfortunately, due to the date being fixed as 31st August each year, it tends to fall on a weekday. Many employers, therefore, will be spotting employees quickly closing down internet pages packed with rumours about where Mahrez is off to and whether Coutinho will finally be sold for goodness knows how much…
But what stance should an employer take? To use a referee analogy: should you let it go, have a quiet word or produce a yellow or red card?
‘Referee lets play go on’ – The employer clocks the fact that some of their staff are keeping up-to-date on Transfer Deadline Day but acknowledges that they have hardcore football fans and that it increases staff morale. Obviously, this will only be the case if the employees don’t take it too far and remain discreet. If employees take it too far and it’s clear that they are literally sitting there constantly refreshing the BBC Sport Transfer Deadline Day page and not doing any work at all, then the employer may need to go a step further.
‘Referee has a quiet word’ – As above, if an employee is taking it far enough that they may as well be at home with a laptop and/or Sky Sports on the telly, the employer should have a quiet word. Alternatively, if the job requires concentration and/or the Employee Handbook explicitly bans non-work related webpages, then the employee should reinforce this to staff through a quiet, informal word. The employer should call the employee into a quiet space, mention that they’ve seen them online checking the transfers and state that this is for break periods only.
If multiple staff are doing this, the employer may wish to send a general email around staff stating that internet use will be monitored throughout the day and any breaches may lead to disciplinary action. Naturally, this may lead employees to use their mobiles, so an eye should also be kept out for mobile phone use.
‘Referee produces the yellow card’ – This would normally follow the employer having a quiet word with a staff member but noticing that they’ve taken no notice of their earlier informal chat. This time, the employer would invite the employee into a quiet space again and warn that any further conduct in which they check Transfer Deadline Day instead of working will constitute a failure to follow management instructions and lead to a formal Disciplinary Hearing. This would be a true yellow card situation, as it would show the employee that one further offence will lead to severe consequences.
‘Referee sends them off’ – This would only follow an informal chat by the employer and would almost never be a first course of action. If the employee has been given sufficient warnings that viewing Transfer Deadline Day content breaches a workplace policy and/or breaches a reasonable management instruction, and the employee has clearly ignored them, they can be informed that they will be invited to a formal disciplinary meeting to explain their actions. They would be told that a letter would be provided shortly. Whilst sanctions can differ, in most cases, the outcome may be a First Written Warning.
In all honesty, most employers will take the pragmatic route of acknowledging that this occurs twice a year (there is a January Transfer Deadline Day as well!) and that the positive effect on workplace morale is likely to be larger than any slight bump in productivity. Most of the time, employees will only check periodically rather than being literally glued to the BBC Sport update screen! Perhaps the team leaders themselves are following the rumour mill and transfer announcements… And, to be honest, that’s how it should be: an employer should only consider stronger action if there is a noticeable effect on the business and/or productivity.
My thoughts? Well, I’m a Marine AFC fan, so it doesn’t massively affect me! I just hope it’s an exciting one! Most Transfer Deadline Days tend to fizzle out (and disappoint employees who literally take the day off work – no, really!), so I hope some big transfers go through to make the season interesting.